Double Displacement Reaction: Definition & Examples

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Lesson Transcript
Nissa Garcia

Nissa has a masters degree in chemistry and has taught high school science and college level chemistry.

Expert Contributor
Matthew Bergstresser

Matthew has a Master of Arts degree in Physics Education. He has taught high school chemistry and physics for 14 years.

When a chemical reaction occurs, bonds are broken and new bonds are formed and products have a different identity from the reactants. In this lesson, we will discuss one of the main types of chemical reactions, called a double displacement reaction.

What Is a Double Displacement Reaction?

Let's imagine ourselves going to a dance and having a dance partner. Once we arrive, we interact with the other people, and we end up switching dance partners with another person. Now you end up with a new dance partner. The same kind of thing can be compared to what occurs in a double displacement reaction in chemistry.

A double displacement reaction, also known as a double replacement reaction or metathesis, is a type of chemical reaction where two compounds react, and the positive ions (cation) and the negative ions (anion) of the two reactants switch places, forming two new compounds or products. Here, you can see the general form of a double displacement reaction:

Double Displacement Reaction

How to Complete a Double Displacement Reaction

Just like how dance partners can be switched, the products of a double displacement reaction are the result of the cations and anions of the reactants trading partners with each other. Now we'll learn the steps to complete and predict the correct products for a double displacement reaction. Let's start with a look at the chemical reaction between Na 2 S and HCl.

Reaction Between Na2S and HCl

Step 1: Identify the Individual Ions from the Reactants and Their Charges

For the reactant Na 2 S , there is a cation (positive ion) and an anion (negative ion). Na is written first, so that means Na is the cation. S is written second, so S is the anion. Cations and anions have charges that are either positive or negative integers. A cation has a positive charge, and an anion has a negative charge.

S has no subscript, which is just the small numbers at the bottom right after each element. No subscripts mean that the subscripts are equal to one. This means that if we rewrite the compound Na 2, the subscript for S is 1. We can then reverse the subscripts and figure out the individual charges of Na and S. Na has a charge of +1, and S has a charge of -2, as shown here:

Na2S Ions

Now, let us take a look at the other reactant, HCl. The cation is H, and the anion is Cl. Like we did with Na 2 S , we reverse the subscripts to figure out the individual charges.

HCl Ions

Step 2: Switch the Cations and Anions of the reactants

To predict the products, bring down the charges as shown in this illustration:

Na2S and HCl Reaction

Originally, the pairs are Na-S and H-Cl. Now, the new partner of Na is Cl, and the new partner of H is S.

Step 3: Balance the Chemical Reaction

The reaction in this case is not balanced, because the number of Na and H atoms (in red) is not the same.

Na2S and HCl Unbalanced

What we need to do next is to balance the reaction by adding coefficients, which are the numbers before each compound. In this case, we will put a 2 in front of HCl to balance the H atoms and a 2 in front of NaCl to balance the Cl atoms.

Na2S and HCl Balanced

Now, we have successfully balanced the reaction.

Examples of Double Displacement Reactions

For our first example, we'll look at the reaction between Li 2 SO 4 and BaCl2 . SO4 is a polyatomic ion, so we will treat this as one anion. The ion SO4 does not have a subscript (4 is not the subscript because this is included in the ion). The subscript of SO4 is 1. Let's first determine the ions and their charges.

Li2SO4 and BaCl2 Ions

Now, we can switch the ions and come up with the double displacement reaction.

Li2SO4 and BaCl2 Reaction

For our next example, let's look at the reaction between NaOH and CaBr2 . For this reaction, OH is a polyatomic ion and is treated as one whole anion. The individual ions and the charges for these two reactants are demonstrated in this image:

NaOH and CaBr2 Ions

Now, we can switch the ions, as you can see here:

NaOH and CaBr2 Reaction

Types of Double Displacement Reactions

Now that we have gone over the steps to complete and balance double displacement reactions, let us go over the different types of double displacement reactions. There are three types of double displacement reactions: precipitation, neutralization and gas formation. We will discuss each and go over an example for each.

Precipitation Reaction

A precipitation reaction is when two compounds react and form a precipitate, which is a solid product. This product is insoluble, or cannot be dissolved in water.

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Additional Activities

Double Displacement Reactions

Double displacement reactions occur when two aqueous solutions react to form either water, a solid (insoluble compound) or a gas and an aqueous solution. Let's work on predicting and balancing the reactions.

Problems for More Practice

Write the balanced chemical reaction for each scenario, which includes predicting the products of the reaction.

1) Sodium oxide reacts with silver acetate.

2) Silver nitrate reacts with magnesium chloride.

3) Potassium carbonate reacts with ammonium iodide.

4) Cesium sulfide reacts with sodium hydroxide.

5) Sodium hydroxide reacts with hydrochloric acid.


1) Na2 O + 2AgC2 H3 O2 ⟶ 2NaC2 H3 O2 + Ag2 O

2) 2AgNO3 + MgCl2 ⟶ 2AgCl + Mg(NO3 )2

3) K2 CO3 + 2NH4 I ⟶ 2KI + (NH4)2 CO3

4) Cs2 S + 2NaOH ⟶ 2CsOH + Na2 S

5) NaOH + HCl ⟶ NaCl + H2 O

Notice that in each of these reactions, they're balanced for mass. Reactions 1-4 produce a precipitate, while reaction 5 produces water.

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